32 million Americans are exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace regularly.
CERTAIN HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF THE MAJOR CAUSES OF BIRTH DEFECTS. When these workers use harmful chemicals, those toxins can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested by the mother or the father before or during pregnancy. That can affect the parents’ ability to have healthy children. They may have issues having children or may have children with birth defects. These types of chemicals that cause birth defects are known as teratogen and/or genotoxins. A teratogen is an agent that interferes with the development of an embryo or fetus and causes birth defects. A genotoxin is an agent that damages cellular DNA resulting in mutations. Chemicals can be both a teratogen and a genotoxin.
Industries with workers who are most at risk of being exposed to toxic chemicals include high-tech manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturing, agricultural and farming, and energy production workers in coal, fracking, and oil and gas. These laborers are commonly exposed to toxins in chemicals, solvents, and pesticides and heavy metals — all chemicals known to cause birth defects.
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Semiconductors and Birth Defects
In the electronics and high-tech industries, exposure to toxic chemicals can hurt both male and female workers. Workers involved in the manufacture of computer components, like silicon chips or video display equipment, often work in clean rooms with toxic chemicals where contaminated air is constantly recirculated. The chips and boards manufactured inside of clean rooms are produced using etching materials, solvents, cleaning fluids, photoresists, developers and other products that contain ethylene glycol ethers or EGEs — toxic chemicals that semiconductor and clean room workers have been exposed to and directly linked to reproductive problems and birth defects.
Pesticides and Birth Defects
Chemicals used to spray crops are often ingested or absorbed by a mother or father who has worked closely with pesticides, and then passed on damaged DNA to a baby in the womb. Workers at farms and nurseries often work with highly toxic pesticides without receiving adequate protection from their employers. Many studies show pesticides cause reproductive problems and birth defects due to the high levels of pesticide use in farming and agricultural jobs.
Coal, Fracking, Oil & Gas and Birth Defects
The energy production industry is another high-risk area of toxic exposure for people who work in or live in close proximity to oil and gas refineries, fracking operations, coal and other energy production sites. The process of burning coal concentrates the chemicals found in coal ash, and that concentration creates a hazard. Coal ash contains a number of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, and selenium. These heavy metals are confirmed causes of childhood birth defects, cancer, and neurological issues. They can leak into the water and end up in the air near energy production plants or coal-ash dumping grounds. Studies have also shown that persons living in close proximity to oil and gas well drilling, including fracking operations, have shown elevated levels of birth defects.
Other Industries and Birth Defects
Many other fields of work put people at risk of toxic exposure that cause birth defects. These industries include the manufacturing of airplanes, automobiles, plastics, rubber, paints, cleaning agents, and other industries such as printing and sterilization of medical equipment. Maternal and paternal occupational exposure to hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, phthalates, dioxins, metals, chlorinated and oxygenated solvents used in these and other industries can cause serious birth defects, especially when adequate workplace safety measures are absent.
Toxic Substances linked to Birth Defects
TOXIC CHEMICALS USED IN MANY INDUSTRIES, INCLUDING HIGH TECH AND ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING, AGRICULTURE AND FARMING AND COAL, CAN CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS. The chemicals used in electronic cleanroom environments to make technology or semiconductor parts — such as solvents, cleaning fluids, and ethylene glycol ethers (EGE) — are very dangerous. In agriculture, pesticides containing glyphosate and other chemicals are connected to birth defects and reproductive problems. Coal ash contains heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and selenium. Hydraulic fracking puts workers at risk of exposure to hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol ethers as well.
These, along with other toxic substances, can cause harm to both men and women, hurting the parents’ abilities to have healthy children.
Where are the toxic chemicals known to be causes of birth defects used?
Because there are so many workplaces and environmental sites in which hazardous chemicals are used, toxic exposure is potentially very common in this country. In manufacturing plants, fields, farms, energy plants, and job sites across the country, workers are exposed to toxins daily that put them at risk of having a child with birth defects. Even families who live near energy production and coal ash dump sites can be exposed to heavy metals and chemicals that cause birth defects.
What jobs are most at risk of exposure to chemicals that cause birth defects?
With so many risks present to so many workers, you might be wondering which kinds of jobs are most exposed. The truth is, any type of job can be exposed to harsh chemicals. However, we have assembled a list of some of the most common types of jobs at risk of exposure to chemicals. If you think you’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals and they caused birth defects for your children, you are not alone.